Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Wi-Fi on Steroids Bill Introduced! (no NOT Wi-Max)

Imagine the creativity and innovation burst if we could use of unused TV spectrum much the way we use Wi-Fi today. We could party like it was 1998 again!

Last month five of the 22 senators on the Commerce Committee, which is responsible for telecom legislation, including its Chairman, Ted Stevens (D-AK), introduced a bill that'd let us do that! The other co-sponsors, two Ds and 2 R's, are Senators George Allen (R-VA), John Sununu (R-NH), John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

It's called the American Broadband for Communities Act. According to Stevens' Website,
The Act frees up spectrum not being used by broadcasters for unlicensed wireless devices which would provide communities with wireless broadband and home networking services . . . Some studies have indicated that there is more than 150 MHz of spectrum in Anchorage, Alaska, and Honolulu, Hawaii, that could be used by unlicensed devices for wireless services. Even in large cities like Boston and Chicago it is estimated that nearly 50 MHz of spectrum goes unused.

The bill would allow manufacturers to design unlicensed devices to be operated in the broadcast spectrum not being used by broadcasters. These unlicensed devices would make it easier for companies to offer broadband services to consumers. The devices would be designed to sense their environment and identify what spectrum is in use and would only use portions of the broadcast spectrum not being used by broadcasters.
According to email from the New America Foundation, which is doing some of the best work in this area,
In 2004, the FCC initiated a rulemaking (Docket 04-186) to open up these white spaces to wireless broadband devices, subject to strict rules to avoid interference with TV reception. The proceeding has stalled since the departure of Chairman Michael Powell. The newly introduced legislation would break this regulatory impasse.

The new FCC Chairman has a lot on his mind these days, like how to make the big companies even bigger. He can't be bothered by piddly problems like innovation.Therefore, according to StevensWeb, the Act
. . . also directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) craft technical requirements for unlicensed devices in the broadcast band that would protect broadcast stations, a proceeding it has already initiated. In addition, the legislation urges the FCC to further establish an interference complaint resolution process for broadcasters.
I am going to write to every one of the other members of the Senate Commerce Committee, except for knuckle-draggers like Ensign and DeMint, and tell them how important this bill is.

My hat is off to Michael Calabrese and J. H. Snider at the New America Foundation for several years of persistent, deep, courageous work on spectrum issues. I don't know what went on in the crafting of this particular sausage, but my suspicion is it wouldn't have been introduced without Michael and Jim's efforts.

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All I can say is I have now grown so cynical and despondent, that this bill will likely be derailed by a high push lobbysist bribery payoff and we will see in last minute deliberations this bill "all of a suddent" getting killed, or alterated to such an extent as to become powerless in everyway.

I so hope I'm finally wrong on this one.
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